All Aussie Showdown 2005: Behind the scenes

From the bright lights to the back o’ Bourke, Cockburn captures the mood

All Aussie Showdown 2005 Behind the scenes

"WARNING! Following their driving antics yesterday, several people have been banned from any future MOTOR tests because of irresponsible behaviour” the missive begins, and how anyone could have been inspired to mischief simply by watching the Mumbo Monsters leaping about on the dyno like injected bears before being editorially smoked round Eastern Creek is a mystery to me. But much of life is.

This feature was originally published in MOTOR’s May 2005 issue

So I read on right ’til the very novel conclusion, which involves, “…in a professional manner… road rules… respect for the cars” et cetera, check it for forgery and pack a large crossword puzzle to fill the days ahead.

The Plan, it seems, is to drive to Bourke in high summer (and why didn’t I think of that?) to test the melting point of motorcars and, in an unfamiliar experiment with sanity, the whole affair is to be sensibly sheriffed by Big Dean Evans in classic poacher-turned-gamekeeper mode (see missive).

Naturally, this requires Editor Taylor’s ballistic governance to remain stilled throughout and, apart from a test-firing in Dunedoo; the first day outbound is largely untroubled apart from Morley’s insistence that the six-letter Waugh who wrote Brideshead Revisited is Maaark.

Dawn in Nyngan looks as if God’s welding the sky in place and before breakfast’s down the heat feels like flame on the skin. All hands accordingly set the air-con knobs to Export Seafood before heading off on another day of driving punctuated by car changes that promote both another round of guesswork ref. the switchgear and deep wonder ref. the primate that last sat in this seat.

All Aussie Showdown 2005 Photographer Heat Jpg

But it’s all for science and, if the empty, arrowing roads binding Nyngan, Bourke and Brewarrina are no handling loop, they surely allow other explorations of the envelope howbeit not always in literal accord with The Missive.

Apart from the bit about respect, of course. Because despite being sometimes dippy in the details our native cars’ combination of arm-stretching space, chesterfield comfort, stone-axe honesty and the all-day ability to cruise, composed, over any road and any limit in the land without breaking 2000rpm is remarkable.

All Aussie Showdown 2005 Bourke Road Jpg

And they probably deserve better than to be left running for aeons in the blistering heat with the air-con pumping while Art debates Editorial about the virtues of circle work. But they don’t get it. And don’t complain either, bless ’em.

Thus we travel through the Great West, gathering images and experiences most of which are pleasant save the fuel-stop whereat Photographer Bateman excitedly produces a local who is, he swears, my living double… clearly embarrassing the poor bugger because he’s remarkably ugly and no offence meant if you can read.

All Aussie Showdown 2005 Cockburn Look A Like Jpg

Leaving that faux pas where it fell, we finally assemble in late afternoon’s light at Bourke, where debate rages, as ever, between photography, philosophy and let’s-fang-’em-some-more. And the crowds gather. Again.

As they’ve done whenever we stop; to ask and talk and touch these cars with a proprietary interest. The same instinct that’s caused fence-riders, in unimaginable isolation, to stop and wave each car in the convoy past. And, whatever role each of us has in this gig, its message is now perfectly clear: A fleet of Ferraris would not gather more attention. Nor have more merit here.

Because these are the heartland cars. And, for all of us, that truth is just fine.

All Aussie Showdown 2005 Line Up Jpg

What Cockburn Hates

1 - The Coupe4 space-saver is bad enough, compromising speed, range and safety when used. But the real kicker is finding some way to stow the dirty, punctured, full-sized roadwheel among the luggage in an already limited bootspace.

All Aussie Showdown 2005 Coupe 4 Boot Jpg

2 - Somewhere in this picture of Ford's work station are the: Starter button (ugh!), headlamp switching, boot release, fuel flap release, cruise master-switch, mode selection, fog light switch, instrument lighting controls. Can’t see ’em? Neither could we.

All Aussie Showdown 2005 Ford Steering Wheel Jpg

3 - Road-car wings are today’s tail-fins, and I’ll wager a case of good wine that the FPV GT high-mounted aerofoil makes no measurable contribution on any road or once-a-year track outing: But it’s an unsightly, vision-blocking nuisance everyday.

All Aussie Showdown 2005 FPV GT Rear Wing Jpg

4 - If Ford’s wing is a cosmetic folly, the Speed-Spec Commodore wing is a case of style absolutely corrupting commonsense. Any pointless dingus that reduces a sedan’s reversing vision to 4WD-Wagon levels is simply unforgivable.

All Aussie Showdown 2005 Commodore SS Rear Jpg

What Cockburn Rates

1 - Commodore SS seating is a fine balance of form and function. Six days solid without complaint in last year’s Around Australia record run proved them good; and a little more thought on the lumbar adjuster would make them very good indeed.

All Aussie Showdown 2005 Commodore SS Seats Jpg

2 - Proving that embellishment doesn’t always lead to improvement, the Falcon XR6 dash was the pick of the litter. Well-made, well-marked and well-spaced controls in a simple, elegant surround beat flight-deck fussiness every time.

All Aussie Showdown 2005 Falcon XR 6 Dashboard Jpg

3 - Okay, it’s not an original idea (the first Mini had it) but the Maloo rear numberplate mount  hinges to allow legal tail-down trucking. So there: the 5.1m, 1.7 tonne two-seater does make sense. Minimally.

All Aussie Showdown 2005 Maloo Load Bed Jpg

4 - And Hallelujah! Welcome the return, with the FPV GT boiler room, of an engine displayed, largely unadorned, with all its major ancillaries and reservoirs visible for inspection and ease of service. And it looks all the more impressive for it, too.

All Aussie Showdown 2005 FPV GT V 8 Jpg

What a lucky bastard - George Lafrenais blasted the best of Aussie muscle cars

All Aussie Showdown 2005 George Lafrenais Lucky Bastard Jpg

I guess you could describe me as the typical MOTOR reader. I haven’t done any advanced driving courses or track day work. But I do share a passion for performance hardware. So you can imagine when I got a call out of the blue from MOTOR asking if I would like to ‘participate’ in the upcoming all Aussie muscle car shootout.

‘Participating’ meant being a support driver, as there were 13 cars, and some cleaning and refuelling duties. Hmm, let me think. Then I got the second call, “How would you like to be the Lucky Bastard?” Hell, yes. Then I stopped, I’m about to make a total tool of myself, nationally. And to boot, with Australian performance cars… this will require a tetanus shot.

Spending an extended time with the big bangers showed me that each car had its own character. The GM products were better strapped down than the Fords. On the other hand the Fords had better-suited ratios for the way the engines produced power, and a more positive gear selection.

If any subscriber gets invited to an event like this, don’t think twice. Not only do you get to see these cars put through their paces, and drive them yourself, but you get to see parts of the country that are totally amazing. Yeah, being involved in a photoshoot that goes on for three hours in the same spot can bite but it’s all part of the experience. Perhaps I won’t need that tetanus shot after all…


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Paul Cockburn

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